How to Create a Realistic Crack Effect on a Face

How to Create a Realistic Crack Effect on a Face

Today we will learn an easy way to add crack effects to your images. We will only need a couple of textures and our Photoshop brushes to obtain a realistic end result. This tutorial is split into 9 easy-to-follow steps, with some basic Photoshop features carefully explained. Give a try!


Realistic crack effect in Photoshop


The inspiration behind this design derives from the Black Swan movie poster. I first saw it from the London metro (where it’s highly sponsored!). I decided to create a similar effect in Photoshop.

Realistic crack effect in Photoshop

Step 1

As always, in Photoshop, there are several ways to create the same effect. If you want full control over your image, the best way is to directly paint the crack effect with Photoshop brushes and digital painting techniques. However, in this case I decided to follow the easiest way, and use custom brushes created from textures.

Let’s start by choosing a portrait image. I downloaded this model photo from Shutterstock, but any portrait will work fine.

Realistic crack effect in Photoshop

Step 2

The next step is to download the image of a crack on a wall. This photo of a grunge wall with crack is perfect.

Realistic crack effect in Photoshop

Open the texture image in Photoshop, then hit shift+ctrl+U to desaturate it. We will use this image to create a custom Photoshop brush, this is why the first step was to switch the image colors to grayscale tones.

Now, since the only part we need is the crack, grab the crop tool, select the area of the crack and crop.

Realistic crack effect in Photoshop

Step 3

When saving a brush in Photoshop, we will save all the grayscale areas but not the white ones. So, to save only the crack, we need to increase the image contrast. Press ctrl+L to open the levels window, and move the arrows as shown in the screenshot below:

Realistic crack effect in Photoshop

Grab a white round brush, and paint to clean up the image.

Realistic crack effect in Photoshop

Go to Edit>Define Brush Preset and save your new custom brush.

Realistic crack effect in Photoshop

Step 4

Let’s switch to the portrait document in Photoshop. Create a new layer, then select your new brush from the brushes gallery and click once to paint.

How to rotate brushes and change their size? You can easily modify your brushes from the brushes option panel (Window>Brush). In this case, for example, I used the panel to flip the brush horizontally and resize it.

Realistic crack effect in Photoshop

Step 5

The crack effect is composed by 2 elements: the inner thin line (depth), and the visible concrete texture. The brush will be used to create the inner thin line, while the concrete texture effect will be created from scratch .

Create a new layer below the brush layer, and grab a round brush. Using the crack brush as reference, paint over it to create the areas that will be filled later with the concrete texture. The fill color is not important, since we will apply layer styles later, so choose a color that is easily visible. Title this layer “Texture area”.

Realistic crack effect in Photoshop

Now that we have the base for the crack effect, hide the Texture area, grab the eraser tool and clean up the crack thin line.

Realistic crack effect in Photoshop

Step 6

To make the crack line more realistic, double click on its layer thumbnail to open the layer style window, then switch the color overlay to (#0a0a0a) and add a 1px white drop shadow. You will notice how the drop shadow, with the right settings, creates a subtle “depth” effect.

Realistic crack effect in Photoshop

Realistic crack effect in Photoshop

Step 7

Make the Texture area layer visible, then open the layer styles window.

At first, switch the color overlay to a dark grey (#6e6e6e):

Realistic crack effect in Photoshop

Then add the white drop shadow, as shown in the previous step:

Realistic crack effect in Photoshop

Finally add a 1px inner shadow:

Realistic crack effect in Photoshop

Step 8

Adding the concrete texture is very simple. Create a new group above all the other layers. Set the group blending mode to overlay. Now, with the group still active, ctrl+click on Texture area layer to select its pixels and add a layer mask by pressing the Layer Mask icon button at the bottom of the layers window.

What’s the point of this step? We’ve set up the group so that every layer we put inside it will cover only the Texture area layer, and its blending mode will be automatically set to overlay.

Realistic crack effect in Photoshop

Step 9

Now that we have the group correctly set up, simply put a texture inside it. I used a concrete texture from our High resolution concrete textures set.

If you want to scale down the texture, press ctrl+T to activate the free transform tool and resize it.

We’ve finished guys! …and this is my result:

Realistic crack effect in Photoshop

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Howdy! I'm a self taught graphic designer who loves to create amazing stuff using every kind of media. I'm currently living and working in Italy.


(+add yours)
  1. Yeti

    Sorry but this is in no way realistic… falseblurriness and just 2 cracks in the face without anything around?!
    Thats not good at all?

    Sorry, but this sucks, even as an beginner tutorial its not really worth mentioning…

    • Hi Yeti, I think what’s important about this tutorial are the techniques used… Creating a custom PS Brush, applying styles to create a subtle 3D effect, and apply a layer mask to a group of layers. These are all solid Photoshop techniques that my not be obvious to beginners.

      As far as the end result is concerned… The inspiration for the tutorial is the Black Swan poster, which is also not realistic in any way. Taking that into consideration I think this tutorial does a good job of recreating the effect and teaching some basic techniques while doing so.

      • Ignacio

        I totally agree with you Nathan !

    • The tutorial is perfect to learn some techniques… please take a look at the Daniel’s work! The limit is always in our own mind!

    • Dustin

      I agree with Yeti.
      The name of the post is “how to create a realistic crack effect on face”. There’s nothing realistic about it.
      I like the submit button for comments though. nice touch.

  2. i want changed the face to face photoshop

  3. Daniel Miller

    Thanks for the tutorial! Heres what I came up with

    • Great result Daniel,

      It looks better than mine ;-)

    • Great work!

    • Really nice work, Daniel!

    • I love it! Looks so real!

    • Christian

      I think the difference between your image and the one in the tutorial is that the shading of the face is persistent.

  4. Rômulo

    Excellent tutorial. But how do you make the stock photo effect?

    • Hi Romulo,

      Everything is explained in the tutorial. Which is the step you didn’t understand? I can explain it more in depth to help you

  5. Great tutorial, Thanks for sharing your knowledge with everyone. It was very knowledgeable and interesting. Long island city hotels

  6. Great Tutorial and Techniques well explained!!
    Thanks for sharing…
    Featured in Tutorials of the week in

  7. I did the effect on amber heard’s face. hope you like it and, as usual, appreciate your feedbacks:

    • Good result Hildergan,

      Try reducing the saturation of the model and applying the sharpen effect on the concrete texture layer (filter>Sharpen>Sharpen)

  8. Thanks for the tutorial! I am going to try this out today!

  9. alfin

    nice tutorial!… thankzzz


    Sebastiano sir is there image is free of charge from Shutterstock or payable because i cant able to download this free.

    • Hi Prateek,

      The photo is not free. Anyway, you will find tons of free portrait images on site like deviantart and stock.xchng. The effect can be easily applied to any kind of portrait/image

  11. Steph

    I don’t understand the whole group layers thing.
    If you could please explain that to me more in steps, so i can achieve the final step of making the concrete fill.

    Thank you :)


    GREAT tuts……..i am feeling very well when i saw your tut……..
    thanks BRO

  13. Ankit

    great tutorial man….
    i tried it and here is what i came wtih..

  14. duresky

    i love the techniques,it perfectly nice… kip it u bro

  15. umair taj

    good one man i like it ,, keep it up , i m wid u

  16. i think the best place to get free psd’s is when that name above and see what am talking about, your critics are highly appreciated.

  17. chootiya

    hay its nice trice yaar.

  18. Kristin

    Hello, I have gotten to the very last step and I as well cannot figure out how to add the texture into the group and I am pretty good at photoshop I use it all the time and I cannot find a tutorial on how to do that in google. could you please explain how I would do that? thank you!

  19. how do i
    Create a new layer below the brush layer, and grab a round brush. Using the crack brush as reference, paint over it to create the areas that will be filled later with the concrete texture
    its very hard to understand can u tell me it very briefly step wise that where to go and click

  20. ????

    u are best !!!

  21. gevorg

    i can’t understand step 5

  22. sarfaraz

    but i want to creat black sawan photo like your inspiration.

  23. Everyone loves what you guys are usually up too. This type of clever work and exposure!
    Keep up the excellent works guys I’ve you guys to blogroll.

  24. Aaron

    I don’t understand the layer masking part :( :(

  25. This is the right site for everyone who wishes to understand this topic.
    You realize so much its almost tough to argue with you (not that I actually will need to…HaHa).
    You definitely put a fresh spin on a topic that has been discussed for ages.
    Great stuff, just great!

  26. surendra

    very nice creation….

  27. very nice creation….very nice creation….

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